Many people enjoy animals. Typically, people seem to prefer furry animals. It also seems that though cats and dogs are well liked by people, snakes tend to be disliked by many people. My brother and I happen to like snakes.
My first story about snakes took place in June of 1986. My maternal grandfather was going to be sixty-five years old towards the end of the month, and thus was retiring. In those days, my mom picked ferns from the woods to use as decorations. On June 6th, she was picking ferns for on the tables at my grandfather’s retirement party the next day. Suddenly, she saw movement in the grass. The movement was coming from a snake right by her hand. My mom is afraid of snakes, so she dropped the ferns, jumped back, and left. Needless to say, this was the last time that she picked ferns.
My brother, Davy, was born in February of that same year. When he became old enough to realize that Mom didn’t like snakes, Davy and I became interested in snakes. (Go figure!)
Stores sold rubber snakes. They usually were green or black, but occasionally came in other realistic colors. When we were in a store, Davy would find the snakes, and remove one from the bin they were kept in, and show it to Mom. Mom would tell him to put them back in the bin, and then we would continue along. This was a frequent occurrence. Davy also decided that he wanted to get a rubber snake. Of course, the answer was no, though he kept trying.
One summer day we were at Park City Center in Lancaster. When Dad was a sales rep, sometimes he would take us all to a mall or other shopping facility, and drop us off while he went to make sales calls. He would pick us up at the end of his work day. This particular trip, was the one where Davy would purchase his first rubber snake. Park City had a kiosk in the middle of one of their “malls,” known as Simply Green (Park City was set up with a hub and multiple hallways coming off of it, lined with stores. These hallways were called malls.) Simply Green sold nature-type merchandise. They had a few large rubber snakes on display, including some green snakes and a blue tropical snake. Dave asked Mom the question again, but this time received permission to buy one. Though he initially wanted to buy a green snake, he was told that the only way he could have one would be if he got the blue snake. The reason being that Mom thought it looked less realistic. She said to Davy, “Besides you like blue; wouldn’t you want a blue snake?” My brother’s favorite color, as a child, was blue.
Davy bought the blue snake. The funny thing is that in reality the snake Davy bought was probably more venomous than the ones he was originally looking at, which Mom apparently didn’t realize at the time. Animals with bright colored bodies tend to be dangerous—think poison dart frogs. Davy named the snake, Snakey-Snake, and kept him in his bedroom. This proved to be a victory as it was the first of many rubber snakes Davy would be allowed to buy going forward.
Snakes would strike again in 1991. My family got a Nintendo for Christmas in 1990 with two games. By spring of 1991, our collection of games increased slowly. Davy and I were the ones who played them, and were making slow progress through those games. In a school book order, I found a hot tip book, More Hot Tips for Nintendo, that I bought. Besides offering tips for the games that my brother and I needed help with, it also offered opportunities to look at games we didn’t own, which had the possibility of getting us interested in them. The book was examined thoroughly. I even took it with me to Disney World during our first trip.
Back to the snake story, the second game featured in More Hot Tips for Nintendo was Mega Man 3. This game had a robot master (boss) named Snake Man. According to the hot tip book, his level was situated on the body of a mechanical snake. The level had plenty of snake enemies. This level interested me. I asked for and received the game for Christmas that year.
When actually playing the game, I really liked the stage. Davy and I created lyrics for the stage’s music: “We are the snakes, and we’re here to say, we hiss every day…….”
Mom had always decorated a special cake for Davy and my birthdays. In 1992 for my eleventh birthday, I decided I wanted a scene from Snake Man’s stage on my cake. I wasn’t sure if she would accept this idea. Surprisingly, she agreed. I remember on the morning of my birthday, going to that stage in the game so that Mom could see how to decorate my cake. I chose the scene from the hot tip book featuring a room containing three snakes situated in positions that formed a “set of stairs.” I had Mega Man on the ladder beyond the snakes so that Mom could study the picture to replicate it. I thought the cake turned out well. It was very recognizable.
It took quite a while, but eventually Davy got a second rubber snake which was a Christmas present from me. This time the snake was a green snake! The snake was named Snake York. Snake York was a town I invented in a big fat book I created in 1993. Big fat books are folded pieces of paper that depict what a person would see when driving down a road. Since when Dave and I created them, we would pretend we were driving down the roads, we didn’t take much time creating the individual scenes, meaning that they had a lack of detail, and sometimes pages would have little on them. Based on the city of York, which I have always held in high regards, I created Snake York. Snake York would also come to refer to New York City, as well.
Nineteen ninety-four was the year when we moved to our current house. In the summer, Mom started to clean out the large barn we had. It was a big task, and something that she dreaded doing. To get through it, she would give herself fifteen minutes to work on it per day. After that set amount of time, she could continue if she felt ambitious, or quit if she felt tired or it was going terribly. Unfortunately for her, a snake had found a home in that big old barn. Mom never saw the snake, but discovered a shed snake skin, which was offered to Davy. Davy gladly took the snake skin, and kept it in a box in his closet. Basically, he could have it as long as Mom didn’t have to see it, or accidentally come upon it.
Davy bought more rubber snakes as he progressed through elementary school. He also learned a great deal about them as well. In 1995, he attended a snake show. Our maternal grandmother took him.
The summer of 1997, had some exciting events. Firstly, I turned sixteen and had a birthday party for it. Davy and I also went on our first cruise. It was to the Bahamas. One thing our family did was look at the marching flamingos. The same place also had a snake. People could hold it by putting it around their neck. Of course, I chose to do this. I wanted to kiss the snake! Mom wasn’t impressed. She told me not to. In reality it’s not a wise idea to put your mouth up to any kind of reptiles. They can carry various kinds of pathogens.
During my eleventh grade year, another snake show was offered. This time I attended the show with my brother. Again, our grandmother went along.
As we found out, though there are many different types of venomous snakes, only three kinds live in Pennsylvania. Most types here are nonvenomous. In the United States as a whole, there are a larger range of venomous snakes including the dangerous coral snake. Apparently, people are not the only ones who know coral snakes are dangerous. Various snakes including the king snake have a kind of camouflage called mimicry and look similar to these dangerous snakes. The purpose of the adaptation is for protection from predators. There’s a simple way to tell the two types of snakes apart. The saying goes: “If red touches black—poison lack, if red touches yellow, kills a fellow”. Dave learned this saying in one of many snake books he read during that time period.
Davy and I also played some board games, that he owned, having to do with snakes. Swinging Snakes, was a fun game where the player tried to be the one who didn’t cause the snake charmer’s “spell” to break. The game featured a suspended wheel with a background featuring a castle in back, and a snake charmer playing a pungi in the front. Three different colors of snakes were included in the game (red, yellow, and blue), and they were of different lengths. The snakes were kept on piles, and a spinner determined what color snake, and how many the player would hang on the tree. The weight of too many snakes would cause the snakes to fall, causing that person to lose. Don’t Get Rattled was another game we had, that we didn’t play that often. It contained a battery-controlled rattlesnake with a treasure chest of gold in the center. With a plastic pick, the player had to remove pieces of gold. The catch was that when the pick was moved the snake would start “rattling its tail,” and would “strike” requiring the person to return the gold into the treasure chest if the player made the wrong movement or took too long. The snake did not hurt us in any way, it simply startled us. It seemed that every time a piece of gold was removed the snake would strike. Since we never knew when the snake would strike, this game seemed risky to us.
I learned a little about snakes from a staff member who worked with me from Focus Behavioral Health, which helps people on the autism spectrum integrate into society. He likes snakes, and owned one himself. He told me there is a difference between venomous and poisonous. For the record, no snakes are poisonous. Snakes people call poisonous are actually venomous. It all has to do with the method by which the toxin is administered. I made it a point to use correct terminology on this blog due to this revelation.
Dave and I still like snakes, but we don’t tease Mom with them anymore. In July of 2011, Dave moved to Taiwan to teach English to children. Knowing that it would be difficult for me when he moved, he gave me a series of gifts. One thing he gave me was an “extra” green rubber snake, that I keep on my bed’s bookcase headboard. Mom can’t figure out how I can keep it there, without it keeping me awake, but it doesn’t! Internal thoughts and worries are what prove to keep me awake.
As can be gathered through this blog, snakes have been an important part of Dave’s and my life. Starting from the time my brother was young, they have been present in some form or another. They are still liked today. And Mom still doesn’t like them—there are many quite venomous snakes in Taiwan, which doesn’t make her happy. At the former school Dave taught at, when a snake was found, a school employee would immediately call for a person to come to get rid of it!
As a side note, this blog previously has been largely ignored. So, I decided to revise it a little, and give people another chance to read it. The URL to my blog is www.tomstidbits.net for those who notifications for subsequent posts.